ACT Recovery College opens its doors

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Offering free education courses on mental health, recovery and wellbeing, the first Recovery College in the ACT was officially opened on Wednesday 10 April.

Located in Lyneham, the ACT Recovery College is being piloted over two years and was developed in partnership with ACT Health, Mental Health Community Coalition ACT (MHCC ACT), Carers ACT and ACT Mental Health Consumer Network.

Dianna Smith, manager of the ACT Recovery College, says the concept of recovery colleges has been around for about 15 years, mainly overseas in the US and UK but they are relatively new in Australia.

Mrs Smith says it operates in a similar way to adult education centres but with a focus on mental health and wellbeing. Courses are free and open to anyone over 18 years of age.

Dr Tessa Cleradin, the ACT Recovery College Educational Manager, says the classes provide an opportunity for mutual learning where each voice is respected as equal.

“Our courses will be co-produced and co-facilitated by people with lived and professional experience,” she says.

However, unlike traditional school, Dr Cleradin says “there are no requirements for assessments and homework”. Instead, when students enrol, they will have an opportunity to identify their goals and develop an individual learning plan. Students will be supported throughout their studies by their educators, staff and their fellow students.

Both Mrs Smith and Dr Cleradin say there is a need for a service like the ACT Recovery College and believe it shows “there’s a different way that you can affect health and wellbeing in the community”.

According to MHCC ACT executive officer Simon Viereck, recovery colleges complement other mental health services and help increase individuals’ ability to stay well.

“Research from established recovery colleges around the world show that participation in courses can help to reduce the incidence and severity of relapse, and enable people to participate more fully in life. They can also be a launch pad into mainstream education, employment and re-connection with the community.”

The 2018-19 ACT Budget allocated $889,000 to trial the establishment of an ACT Mental Health Recovery College.

Minister for Mental Health Shane Rattenbury says the ACT Government has “been listening to Canberrans who have been telling us they need more information and support for self-directed care and self-management”.

We are funding the trial of the recovery college because it will offer this personalised support and has the potential to make a real difference to the way we approach and treat mental illness.”

The first term starts on Monday 6 May and runs to Friday 5 July. To find out more about what the ACT Recovery College offers, there is an Open Week from Monday 15 to Thursday 18 April 10am-12pm at Unit 2, 9/11 Montford Crescent, Lyneham.

For more information, visit recoverycollegeact.org

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